Top 10s

Ricky Jay’s Top 10

Ricky Jay’s Top 10

Author, actor, and historian Ricky Jay first worked with director David Mamet on House of Games. They have since collaborated often, including on seven films, the TV show The Unit, the one-man Broadway show Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants, and Redbelt.

  • The 39 Steps

    1.
    The 39 Steps

    Alfred Hitchcock

    Hitchcock’s great mystery includes a wonderful character called Mr. Memory, not present in the novel by John Buchan. He was based on a drop-out know-it-all autodidact named W.J.M. Bottle, who was billed in vaudeville as Datas, The Memory Man.

  • Children of Paradise

    2.
    Children of Paradise

    Marcel Carné

    In my formative years I was completely taken by this combination of low life, stage pantomime and romantic twizzle. Jean-Louis Barrault, Etienne Decroux, Arletty and Pierre Brasseur on the boulevard of crime. Now, in my dotage, I like it more than ever.

  • F for Fake

    3.
    F for Fake

    Orson Welles

    As a longtime student of deception, and occasional practitioner, I find much to admire in this playful paean to the psychology of the con.

  • Seven Samurai

    4.
    Seven Samurai

    Akira Kurosawa

    When I first came to Los Angeles I became addicted to Japanese cinema at the Toho La Brea Theater. Criterion has reissued many of Kurosawa greatest films, and my list could easily have consisted solely of his titles.

  • The Lady Eve

    5.
    The Lady Eve

    Preston Sturges

    My love of confidence games, card-sharps and great filmmaking makes this the most obvious choice on the list.

  • Secret Honor

    6.
    Secret Honor

    Robert Altman

    I managed to survive the sixties with very long hair and very little insight into politics. Everything I didn’t want to think about Richard Nixon was brought to life in a remarkable performance by Philip Baker Hall in Robert Altman’s underappreciated classic.

  • Oliver Twist

    7.
    Oliver Twist

    David Lean

    My fondness for hooks, stalls, and dips made it difficult to choose between the pickpockets of David Lean and those of Robert Bresson. Both great, but Criterion’s transfer of Guy Green’s painterly cinematography put this one over the top. Please sir, I want some more . . .

  • Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto

    8.
    Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto

    Hiroshi Inagaki

    I cringe whenever I think of Pat Morita grabbing a fly with chopsticks. Toshiro Mifune’s original display of this technique is what film characterization is all about. His remarkable portrayal of Musashi Miyamoto grows in richness and complexity with each episode.

  • I Know Where I’m Going!

    9.
    I Know Where I’m Going!

    Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

    My wife worked with Michael Powell, and treasures this as her favorite movie. Although I am genuinely fond of the film, it did not make my first cut. Upon reflection, however, its inclusion seems prudent.

  • Night and the City

    10.
    Night and the City

    Jules Dassin

    What could be better than this riveting romp through the demimonde of London? Richard Widmark’s performance is a testimonial to excess, and, for my money, The Rock can’t hold a half-nelson to the wrestling or acting skills of Stanislaus Zbyszko.